Hip Pain and the Athlete
Hip pain is very common in all levels of athletics. From MLB slugger Alex Rodriguez to weekend warriors just trying to stay in shape, it can happen to anyone at any time. Often it is something that can be self treated at home while other conditions can be more serious requiring orthopedic evaluation and even surgery. It’s important to pay attention to hip pain when it begins to keep it from developing into a chronic condition. Here are some of the more common conditions and how to deal with them.
Bursitis and Tendinitis
Hip bursitis and tendinitis are common conditions in active individuals. The bursae serve as a cushion between tendons and prominent bones. They can become inflamed with overuse injuries or direct trauma. These are often seen in contact sports like football and hockey. Tendinitis can occur in any tendon around the hip joint including hip flexors and groin muscles. The most common tendinitis around the hip is IT band syndrome which can affect both the hip and knee. It is most commonly seen in endurance athletes and long distance runners.
Osteoarthritis is one of the most common causes of chronic hip pain in older athletes. It usually manifests as groin pain. As we age, the articular cartilage of the ball and socket joint in our hip erodes away causing pain and stiffness primarily with weight bearing activity.
This injury is caused by direct impact to the top of the hip bone (iliac crest). Intense pain along with bruising and swelling are usually evident. Fortunately this condition is short lived and will resolve with rest and ice in a few days.
Hip Labral Tears
The labrum is a tissue surrounding the hip socket that serves as a bumper. This tissue can tear or detach with an injury or chronic over use causing groin pain, popping and catching sensations.
Hip Impingement is a sports medicine condition seen in younger athletes and middle aged athletes in which the hip bones are abnormally shaped and do not fit together perfectly. Because of athletic activity the joint becomes irritated in this area when the hip is in certain positions. It is common in gymnasts, dancers, and martial arts.
Stress Fractures most often occur in long distance runners. They are caused by repetitive trauma and over training. These can be very serious injuries and may require surgery.
This condition is caused by disruption of the normal blood flow to the ball (femoral head) of the hip joint. As a result, the bone dies and the ball collapses. A dull ache or throb occurs when moving the hip from side to side or rotating. The famous football player Bo Jackson developed this condition ending his professional career.
Hip injuries and conditions can range from minor to very serious. Initial treatment should be rest and avoidance of activity. Anti-inflammatory medications and ice may help. After a few days, slow progression to activity can be attempted. However if symptoms persist, medical evaluation may be necessary.
Immediate attention is required if you cannot bear weight or move the hip or leg. Also, severe intense pain, sudden swelling, or obvious deformities require emergent evaluation. Stretching, strengthening, and conditioning of the muscles around the hip joint can help prevent these injuries. Good equipment is essential for your sport as is proper technique. Prevention can head off a major problem in many cases.